Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is refusing to give up on Euro 2024 qualification despite seeing his side slip to a damaging defeat in Greece.
Kenny admitted Ireland have given themselves “a mountain to climb” if they are to get out of Group B after losing both of their opening fixtures following Friday night’s 2-1 reverse in Athens, but he remains defiant ahead of Gibraltar’s visit to the Aviva Stadium on Monday evening.
Asked if the task is now near-impossible, he said: “It’s only the second game. We’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb.
“At the moment we’ve just got to get ourselves ready for Monday, a home game, nearly a full stadium, we have to give them a victory and that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
Ireland fell behind to Tasos Bakasetas’ 15th-minute penalty, awarded for handball by Callum O’Dowda after a VAR review, but levelled before the break when Nathan Collins fired home from Evan Ferguson’s flick-on, again following a check.
But they were caught again within four minutes of the restart when Giorgos Masouras struck, and the visitors’ misery was complete in stoppage time when Matt Doherty was sent off for pushing Liverpool defender Kostas Tsimikas during an ugly scuffle.
Kenny said: “We didn’t play as well as we would have wanted. Greece were the much better side in the first half overall. They had more control than we would have wanted, they played well.
“That can happen away from home for international teams, but you’ve got to defend better than we did, see it out and that’s what hurt us in the end.
“It was just a really poor second goal to give away. I can’t believe we gave it away to be honest. That’s hurt us. We were still in the game and could have drawn the game – but it might have flattered us.
“I’m very disappointed with the sending off, it seemed very harsh, Matt got involved to get people out, but he didn’t touch his face, he touched his chest. There was too much made of it with the player going down, but there was no facial contact.”
While Ireland will have to lick their wounds and prepare for Gibraltar, Gus Poyet and his players head for France and a game the Uruguayan sees as a free-hit.
He said: “I think we both knew – we were depending a lot on France and the Netherlands – but between the two, maybe one of the two, [Ireland] and us, one maybe will have a chance to go out fighting.
“To be able to be there, we needed to beat each other. If not, then you have no chance because then you depend on them as well.
“Obviously you need to also do well against the Netherlands, but especially this game, you must win it. If you think you’re going to win the other ones, then you are not realistic, so that was, for me, a must-win game for both teams.
“Obviously we were lucky enough to win it and that gives us a platform now, depending on what happens on Monday. In September, we are going to be second because we are there.
“It gives us then the feeling to go to France in a different way because now we have got six points. It’s a different game with six points than one and if you don’t get something, you’re out, so it was very, very important.”